Apple’s Time Machine software, included with Mac OS X 10.5, is great as a starting point for making and keeping regular backups of your computer’s content. But many people’s backup needs may not be best served by Time Machine, and many others haven’t upgraded to Leopard yet. So what should users do if they can’t or don’t want to use Time Machine? One excellent solution is Synchronize Pro X 6.0.1, from Qdea.
Synchronize Pro X helps with three major tasks: Creating a bootable backup of your system that you can use to restore your files in the event of a catastrophic failure (Time Machine requires you to reinstall Leopard and then migrate from your backup to achieve the same result); backing up some or all parts of your hard drive to another drive or to any mounted volume, including network drives; and synchronizing the contents of a folder that appears in more than one location. Synchronize Pro X performs all of these tasks admirably, and thanks to some core improvements in the 6.0 release, does it even faster than before.
For users of Tiger and Panther, Synchronize Pro X’s usefulness is obvious—those operating systems don’t include backup software, and Synchronize Pro X fits the bill quite well. Even for users who have dabbled with Time Machine, Synchronize Pro X is a breeze to use—perhaps not quite as “set it and forget it” as Time Machine, but more useful if you think you might need to boot up from a backup disk. If you have an external drive connected via FireWire (or, if you’re using an Intel Mac, USB), you can create a bootable backup of your Mac’s internal drive, then use Synchronize Pro X’s automated backup feature to periodically update the contents of that drive. If anything goes wrong, restarting from the drive is as simple as rebooting while holding down the Option key. Note that the program works with both USB and FireWire drives on Intel and PowerPC Macs, but PowerPC Macs cannot boot from USB drives.
Where Synchronize Pro X came in most handy for me was in synchronizing the contents of similar folders and directory structures between discs. I like to make sure that the folders I use the most—my music, for example, and all the work I do for Macworld—are easily accessible in the same way from both my Mac Pro and my laptop. Setting that up with Synchronize Pro X is very easy—I simply tell it which target folders I want to synchronize and it takes care of the rest. It connects to the remote disk using my password, unmounts the target volume when the backup is done, and logs everything for me in case I want to double-check things later.
Synchronize Pro X also checks for conflicts—simultaneous changes to two documents, for example—and will pop up an error message to let you know if it encounters one. It can ignore or overwrite such files, or move the older file into a Conflicts folder so you can figure out what’s going on later. It can also delete files that have been removed from a folder you’ve backed up or synchronized, if you prefer that to keeping the file forever. Synchronize Pro X also manages file permissions, owners, and groups, and will copy long Unicode-encoded file names too.
Synchronize Pro X’s backup feature works just like its sync capability, except that it’s a one-way process. This is really handy if there are just certain files and folders you want to back up. Synchronize Pro X’s incremental backups using the Fast Scan feature worked well and did not take an intrusively long time to complete.
If all this sounds like a bit of overkill to Time Machine users, Qdea has also created an appealing, slimmed-down (and, at $30, less expensive) version of the software called Synchronize X Plus. This version lacks a number of powerful features: for instance, you can’t create bootable system backups, use aliases to back up or sync from anywhere on your system, or copy files with different extensions or with a mix of file types and creators, among other things.
Macworld’s buying advice
For users looking for a complete backup, archival, and synchronization software tool for their Macs that also works on Tiger or Panther, Synchronize Pro X 6.0 is an excellent choice. With Synchronize Pro X, you have a lot of flexibility to designate what files and folders to include and exclude; the program allows you to create bootable backups as well. Synchronize X Plus is also a great complement to Leopard’s Time Machine, especially for users who want to simply make sure that the contents of their computers are identical across one or more Macs or volumes.